In the 19th century, scholars began to challenge the Christian tradition that put the site of Jesus’s burial and resurrection at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City’s Christian Quarter. Many Protestants also had their doubts – in large part because the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was the site sanctioned by the Roman Catholic establishment.

It was Major General Charles Gordon, a British officer and administrator, who picked up the gauntlet and began searching for an alternative site. In 1883, Gordon found a rocky escarpment near Damascus Gate. The fact that the escarpment resembled a skull suggested to Gordon that he had stumbled upon the true Golgotha, which may have been derived from the Hebrew and Aramaic for ‘skull.’ He also concluded that one of several tombs uncovered nearby in 1869 had to be the tomb of Jesus. John the Evangelist specifies that the tomb was located in a garden, and the site identified by Gordon contained an ancient cistern and a wine press; hence the name Garden Tomb (it’s also known as Gordon’s Calvary).

Despite the fact that archaeologists (not to mention the Catholic Church) have yet to embrace the Garden Tomb as the site of Jesus’ burial, the spot has become a popular Protestant place of pilgrimage. It is a quiet place, perfect for prayer and reflection. 

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